At-home Cold Remedies for Kids   

At-home Cold Remedies for Kids

Parent taking care of sick child, blowing their nose. Cold remedies for children.
Clinical Contributors to this story:
Bruce N Terrin, M.D.

For kids, the “common” in “common cold” takes on new meaning. It’s not unusual for kids—especially those in school or daycare—to bring home a new cold every few months. Fortunately, as kids get older and their immune systems build, colds do become less frequent.

Currently, there is no cure for the common cold. Since colds are caused by various viruses and not bacteria, antibiotics aren’t effective. 

“Generally, children recover on their own, so you just have to let colds run their course,” says pediatrician Bruce Terrin, M.D. “Still, there are a few at-home treatments that can help relieve symptoms.” 

Remedies to Help Kids Feel Better

1. Fluids

Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids such as water, electrolyte solutions or soup broth. “Keeping your child hydrated can thin secretions and loosen mucus in the nose and lungs,” says Dr. Terrin.

2. Rest

Allow your child to get plenty of rest, so their body can fight off the illness.

3. Saline nasal sprays

If your child has nasal congestion, a nasal saline solution can help loosen mucus. These can be purchased over the counter without a prescription. 

“Keep in mind that saline sprays are different from nasal decongestant sprays,” says Dr. Terrin. “Nasal decongestant sprays can cause symptoms to worsen.”

4. Humidity

A cool-mist humidifier can add moisture to the air and prevent your children’s nose and throat from drying. Clean your humidifier after every use.

5. Children’s strength medicine

Some over-the-counter medications can relieve your child's cold symptoms. “However, you should discuss all over-the-counter products with your child’s doctor before using them,” says Dr. Terrin. “Many of these medicines have side effects and age restrictions, so they should be used with caution.”

6. Fresh air

“If weather permits, getting outside and enjoying some fresh air can help kids feel better. As long as your child feels up for it, it’s safe to spend some time outdoors when your child has a cold,” adds Dr. Terrin.

Cold Remedies to Avoid

  • Aspirin: You should never give a child aspirin unless you are directed to by your child’s doctor. It could cause a rare, serious condition called Reye syndrome (which causes liver and brain swelling) in children and teens.

  • Honey for children under age one: Honey can be a soothing remedy for sore throats and coughs. However, it should not be given to a child under the age of one, because it could cause botulism, a rare but potentially fatal illness.

  • Leftover prescription cough or cold medications: You should never share prescriptions, especially with children. “There are many restrictions on what can be safely given to children due to their size and developmental stage,” says Dr. Terrin. “By administering unnecessary antibiotics, it could lead to antibiotic resistance later in life. It is very possible that using leftover medications could do far more damage than good. If your child seems to be experiencing a lot of pain, call your doctor for age-appropriate medication.”

If your child experiences any unusual symptoms or you have concerns, always contact your child’s pediatrician, they are here to help.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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